The Baby Bond by Lilian Darcy
(Silh. Romance #1390, $3.50, PG) SBN 0-373-19390-4
***
All of us, at one time or another, have thought about the random element involved in falling in love and getting married. If you hadn't taken that English 101 class or visited that old roommate on that particular day or started watching Monday night football in that particular bar, would you have met and married someone different? I think these sorts of speculations help to explain the perennial popularity of stories about marriages of convenience.

The Baby Bond by Lilian Darcy involves a very modern marriage of convenience, as modern as surrogate mothering. Loretta Nash Callahan persuaded her cousin, Julie Gregory, to provide both the egg and the womb for the baby that would save Loretta's tottering marriage.

Shortly after Julie became pregnant, however, Loretta was killed in an auto accident. With some difficulty, Julie locates Loretta's husband's address in the mess that Loretta has left behind. She immediately travels to his summer home in the Adirondack mountains to tell Tom about the baby she is carrying.

Tom Callahan is amazed by Julie's announcement, but Julie is almost as surprised by Tom's; his marriage to Loretta was not only tottering, it was finished. Their divorce was finalized three years earlier, and Tom's signature on the surrogacy contract is a forgery.

Tom's immediate reaction is to question the existence of a pregnancy. His start-up software company has taken off since he and Loretta divorced and -- pregnancy or no pregnancy -- he tells Julie the scheme is Loretta's last-ditch effort to participate in his success.

Once he calms down, however, and thinks about the situation, Tom realizes that he too wants this baby, wants it as much as Julie does. By the end of that first day, he has proposed a marriage of convenience to Julie, and she has agreed.

How do two people who have known each other a total of two and a half days handle being married to each other? With difficulty, of course. First of all, there's Julie's pregnancy. On top of the emotional highs and lows a pregnant woman experiences, Julie's pregnancy is more difficult than most: she's having twins. (The picture on the cover gives this away; I'm not divulging a crucial plot twist.)

Julie's mother is witchy; her self-centered behavior plays a significant role in preventing Julie from being open with Tom. Finally, there's a pre-nuptial agreement Julie and Tom signed, stipulating no sexual relations, despite the fact that they are strongly attracted to each other right from the start.

Both Julie and Tom came across as attractive, sensible people, if not particularly exciting. Julie's mother, on the other hand, made a convincing mother-from-hell. A telephone conversation with this woman would leave almost anyone cursing the shade of Alexander Graham Bell.

I found the underlying premise of The Baby Bond difficult to swallow. Julie Gregory is presented as a thoughtful, mature 23-year-old, yet she allowed herself to be persuaded into surrogate motherhood without much regard for the consequences. Had the flighty Loretta not died in a car crash, could Julie have given the baby up? Most women, even in the most ideal circumstances, would have trouble doing so, yet author Lilian Darcy never raises the question.

Darcy is a competent writer and, once past the flawed premise, Julie and Tom's reactions to the situation they found themselves in were believable…but not compelling. I found this an easy book to read and easy to put down again.

One last comment: Possibly categories aren't subject to the same editorial and authorial scrutiny afforded works with a longer shelf life. However, before this book went to print, someone should have noticed that in Chapter 2 Tom's name changes to Nick…twice. Confused me!

--Nancy J. Silberstein


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